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Salah M. Hassanein, the former president of Warner Bros. International Theaters who was a tireless philanthropist in Hollywood, died Friday at his home in Del Mar, California, his family announced. He was 98.
Named for him, the Salah M. Hassanein Humanitarian Award is presented annually at the ShowEast exhibition convention to a leader in the industry who has distinguished himself or herself in the philanthropic community.
In 2011, he received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor in recognition of U.S. citizens who have distinguished themselves by exemplifying the values of the American way of life.
Born in 1921 in Alexandria, Egypt, Hassanein came to the U.S. in 1945 and served in the U.S. Armed Forces from 1945-47. He began his long career in the industry as an usher at a movie theater in New York City.
Hassanein rose to become president of United Artists Eastern Theaters before joining Warner Bros in 1988. As head of New York-based Warner Bros. International Theaters, he oversaw the company’s global expansion — creating a network of movie houses in Europe, Japan and Australia — before stepping down in 1994.
He then served as president of the Todd-AO Corp., the Los Angeles-based sound-mixing studio, through 2000.
Hassanein also produced films including Kentucky Fried Movie (1977), Knightriders (1981), Creepshow (1982), Day of the Dead (1985), Compromising Positions (1985) and Hello Again (1987).
He served for many years as a member of the board of the Variety Boys & Girls Club of Queens (renamed the Salah M. Hassanein Variety Boys & Girls Club of Queens in his honor) and was board chairman and president of Variety International.
He also was president and honorary chairman of the Will Rogers Motion Picture Pioneers Foundation and instrumental in creating the Will Rogers Institute on the grounds of Burke Rehabilitation Hospital after the closure of the Will Rogers Hospital in 1975. The Pioneers Assistance Fund’s Salah Hassanein Medical Grant provides temporary financial aid for film industry members in need.
In 1983, when Nancy Reagan brought two children from South Korea to the U.S. for open-heart surgery, she turned to Hollywood for assistance. Under Hassanein’s leadership, Children’s Lifeline International became the sponsor of medical missions to developing countries where U.S. medical practitioners perform life-saving pediatric cardiac surgery and other treatments.
Over the years, personnel from more than 25 U.S. hospitals have treated kids on Children’s Lifeline missions to 50 countries. Hassanein once said that Children’s Lifeline was his greatest achievement.
Survivors include his children Richard (and his wife, Adrienne), King, Nesa, Salah and Neva; four grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; his half-brother, Esmat; and his longtime partner, Zandra Rhodes.
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